Annual Halloween rituals

Annual Halloween rituals October 23, 2011

Halloween is, among other things, an excuse for the Slacktivixen and my daughters to dress the dog up in costumes.

Willow is a patient dog, and can be bribed into complying with almost anything in exchange for a treat.

But Halloween is also, according to Herbert Hoover Fan Club President Amity Shlaes, a Pagan ritual promoting “necromancy” and the undermining of monotheistic hegemony. Jason Pitzl-Waters responds to Shlaes’ complaint that the holiday is a threat to christianamerica.

“Halloween isn’t secular. It is pagan,” Shlaes writes, assuming her readers will all share her unspoken assumption that this is a condemnation.

If she had stopped to consider that assumption — the assumption that the vast majority of people reading what she’s writing there share her general perspective on the undesirability of pagan influence in America — then she might have realized that it contradicts the claim of her complaint. If one assumes that one can simply say “Halloween … is pagan” and have everyone reading gasp along at the horror of that, then one cannot simultaneously argue that this pagan influence is widespread and becoming dominant among that same readership.

That’s not the only way Shlaes’ complaint swallows its own tail. Advocates of Christian hegemony like Shlaes have to make up their mind about holidays. If the celebration of Halloween — even as a secularized and commodified carnival of costumes and candy — exerts a subtle but powerful Pagan influence on the culture, then it must also be true that the celebration of Christmas — even as a secularized and commodified carnival of gift-giving and vague goodwill — exerts a subtle but powerful Christian influence on the culture. If the secularized and commodified celebration of Christmas has lost all sectarian meaning as an annual cultural ritual, then it must also be true that the secularized and commodified celebration of Halloween is similarly a-religious.

So pick one. You can complain about the “War on (sectarian) Christmas” or you can complain about the evil influence of Halloween. But you can’t do both.

I suppose the best way to get knee-jerk social conservatives to stop whining about Halloween would be to point out to them that all this free candy undermines Michelle Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity. By the conservative principle of reflexive opposition to all things Obama, that would probably lead to columns celebrating the true spirit of Halloween.

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